The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Several winters ago when my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, our home Carbon Monoxide detector went off in the middle of the night. Not knowing what to do, we called the local fire department.They arrived quickly in a fire truck with sirens blaring. It was quite a scene: My pregnant wife and I in our pajamas surrounded by a squad of firefighters fully decked out in protective suits. The firefighters used a Carbon Monoxide detector to ‘sniff’ out the source, and determined that it was coming from our furnace (the part of a home air conditioning system that produces heat). They shut the gas line off to the HVAC unit, and told us to call a qualified home heating service company in the morning to get our system repaired.

It was a scary experience. Not only did we spend a very cold night in our house, but my wife was concerned about the health of our unborn daughter. Everything worked out well in the end: Our daughter is now a happy and healthy, and the air conditioning system replaced. We did, however, learn a very important lesson on the importance of having our furnace serviced regularly.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is commonly referred to as the ‘silent killer.’ CO is the natural byproduct of any burning fuel. In gas fired home heating systems, the leading culprit for CO leaks is a crack or hole in the heat exchangers. This is the part of the system that produces heat. A crack in the unit’s heat exchangers can allow CO to enter the home. If undetected, this Carbon Monoxide can lead to CO poisoning.

An article published by The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists the most common symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning. They are:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Upset Stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion

The article also says that breathing in a lot of Carbon Monoxide can cause fainting or even death. Also, death can occur in people who are sleeping while drunk before symptoms ever occur.

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

–CDC, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning FAQ

Servicing Your HVAC Unit Against Carbon Monoxide Leaks

January is the deadliest month for Carbon Monoxide deaths in the United States. Two people will die per day from CO poisoning.

The CDC recommends having your furnace serviced annually by a qualified technician. Older furnaces – those that are ten years or older – are at the most risk of having potential leaks. If you have a gas fired HVAC unit heating your home, call a licensed and insured air conditioning and heating company for a safety check. Look for technicians that are North American Technician Excellence (NATE) certified. This ‘Standard of Excellence’ ensures that the technician is trained in the proper techniques to detect and address furnace issues. Finally, ensure your HVAC technician is inspecting your furnace’s heat exchangers for cracks or rust.

Inspecting a furnaces heat exchangers is a part of every Service Partner Plan offered by Griffin Mechanical, LLC. Since my personal experience years ago, I have maintained an annual inspection contract on my house in order to avoid another late night call to the fire department.

Carbon Monoxide Awareness in January

To help raise CO awareness, Griffin Mechanical, LLC will be giving away ten free Carbon Monoxide detectors in the month of January for customers with furnaces over ten years old. Call or email us today!